Personalized governing: Understanding and empowering residents with the help of data analytics
The ever-growing volume of information created in today's digital world opens up new opportunities for governments. Both local and federal government organizations can use data to learn more about their residents and collaborate with them to address community issues. Such collaboration, in turn, can progress to more personalized governing, where the government works to meet the individual needs of its people. Many governments already use data collection and analytics to interact with residents and better understand the needs of their communities, and these interactions are only going to increase in the coming years.
According to Pew Research, 65 percent of Americans have gone online to find information about the local, state or federal government in the past year, but only 5 to 7 percent of adults think these levels of government share data "very effectively." The statistics show that while people are willing to interact with their governments via digital means, there is still room for improvement when it comes to government data sharing.
The following are a number of analytics-based strategies that are currently being explored as ways for communities to achieve personalized governance:
Analytics plays an important role in government ideation, as these tools help government bodies examine problems in a systematic way, gather ideas from the public and test to see which are most viable. Because government changes often affect many departments, data systems are used to analyze ideas against existing data to evaluate the chances of reform success.
For example, according to Data-Smart City Solutions, Chicago's regulatory process for small businesses was exceedingly complex prior to 2012, with 117 different types of business licenses. To reform this system and reduce wait time for small business licenses, the city's Innovation Delivery Team (IDT) used the process of ideation to collect data from small business owners on their current situations and future expectations. After analyzing these public inputs with related data, IDT made appropriate recommendations to the city's government. The changes were incorporated into the Business License Reform Initiation Ordinance in 2012 and brought the number of license types down to 49.
Paras Desai, the leader of the Chicago IDT, told the source that resident input is key in the regulatory reform process. "Everyone needs to be involved in the process. This is critical: government, businesses and residents all offer different perspectives and thus bring different sets of needs and ideas to the table," he said.
Encouraging public participation
If governments want to promote public participation, they need to share once-locked government information and encourage discussion of community issues and concerns. However, displaying existing data in a way that's easily accessible and understandable to the public is no easy task, as data is often stored in different formats. Plus, displaying raw data does not give residents a clear picture of the problems, unless they take the time to analyze it. According to Pew Research, only 19 percent of Americans "could think of an example where the local government did a good job providing information to the public about data it collects." For these reasons, government data should ideally be sorted and analyzed before it's shared with the public. This way, people can easily spot data patterns and better contribute to the government's decision-making processes.
Performance and accountability are important aspects of any government, and residents should be given the opportunity to give feedback on public services and "grade" agencies based on their experiences. A feedback system can go a long way in helping governments improve their services, understand their residents and create a personalized governing experience for each resident. One such initiative is Washington D.C.'s Grade.DC.Gov. The platform collects information from residents about government services and agencies, then analyzes the results and displays overall satisfaction levels and reviews.
Governments are increasingly moving toward resident-centric governing processes, and to do so successfully, they will need the latest analytics technologies to help collect, analyze and act on the needs of the community.